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Photo Credit: April Greer


Dr Rhea Combs is the director of curatorial affairs at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. Combs was previously at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture where she served as the curator of film and photography and head of the Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts (CAAMA)

She previously taught visual culture, film, race and gender courses at Chicago State University, Lewis & Clark College and Emory University. Additionally, Combs has independently and successfully curated film exhibitions nationally and internationally for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, the National Black Programming Consortium, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, to name a few. She also worked as the assistant curator for the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta and as a public programs educator at the Chicago Historical Society (now Chicago Historical Museum).

Combs received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University, a Master of Arts degree from Cornell University, and a Doctorate from Emory University. Her writings have been featured in anthologies, academic journals and exhibition catalogues on range of topics including African American female filmmakers, black popular culture, visual aesthetics, filmmaking and photography.

Combs’ current exhibitions and projects, respectively, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture include the museum’s inaugural photography show, Everyday Beauty: Selections from the Photography and Film Collection, Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College, Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection of NMAAHC, the photography books series, Double Exposure, which includes Through the African American Lens: A Survey of NMAAHC’s photography collection, Civil Rights and the Struggle for Equality, African American Women, Picturing Children, and Fighting for Freedom, Represent: Hip Hop Photography and Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture.

Rhea and Doris Berger co-curated  the exhibition and catalog for 'Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898 – 1971' which is currently on display at The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures from August 21, 2022 - April 9, 2023.

For speaking and media enquiries contact: rhea[dot]combs[at]

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